Two months ago Nadja Y. West became the Army’s first black surgeon general, and on Feb. 9 she will be promoted to lieutenant general, the first female U.S. Military Academy graduate as well as the first African-American woman to hold that rank.
West was also the first Army officer to hold a leadership role at the National Naval Medical Center, a top-tier center in Bethesda, Maryland where she served as a deputy commander.
“I was once an orphan with an uncertain future,” West said of her promotion in a piece from theGrio. “And I am incredibly honored and humbled to lead such a distinguished team of dedicated professionals who are entrusted with the care of our nation’s sons and daughters, veterans, and family members.”
According to her biography, West deployed to Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Later, she was part of a medical mission with the 5th Special Forces Group. She has held command at two Army medical centers as well as Europe Regional Medical Command. Most recently, she was the Joint Staff Surgeon at the Pentagon.
As the Army’s surgeon general, West will advise the Secretary of the Army and the Army Chief of Staff on all Army health care matters, according to a press release from the Office of the Surgeon General. West will also oversee Medical Command and its 48 hospitals which serve 4 million active duty service members, retirees, and their family members.
West graduated from West Point with a degree in engineering. She later earned a Doctorate of Medicine from the George Washington University School of Medicine.
We sent our “Vet On The Street,” Marine Corps veteran and comic James P. Connolly, to Santa Monica, California, to find out if your average civilian knows the term for someone who lies about their service (aka “stolen valor”). They have some good ideas … or not.
The AH-1Z aircraft is an updated version of the AH-1W, bringing new capabilities and features into the squadron’s arsenal.
“The AH-1Z’s are replacing the AH-1W’s, which are essentially from the 1980’s,”said Marine Corps Capt. Julian Tucker, the squadron’s ground training officer. “Some big takeaways on the new aircraft can be summarized into greater fuel capacity, ordnance capabilities, and situational awareness.”
The AH-1Z can carry and deploy 16 Hellfire missiles, effectively doubling the capacity of its predecessor, the AH-1W. Updated avionics systems and sensors are another important aspect of the upgrade. The upgraded capabilities allow the squadron and Marine Corps Base Hawaii to further project power and reach in the Asia-Pacific region.
“With the new turret sight system sensor, we can see threats from much further out than before,” Tucker said. “Obviously, that’s a huge advance for our situational awareness.”
Marine Corps Maj. Christopher Myette, the assistant operations officer for the squadron, piloted one of the new Vipers back from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
“Having the displays under glass is a big change from the old steam gauges,” Myette noted on the new digital display systems. “Another thing you notice is that in the electrical optical sensor, there’s a night and day difference.”
The updated electrical systems create a new situation for Marines like Sgt. Jeremy Ortega, an avionics technician with the squadron.
“The new Zulus incorporate systems from the AH-1W and the UH-1Y and essentially combine them,” Ortega said. “The upgraded turret sight systems create much more in-depth images, which allow pilots to pinpoint targets better and get more descriptive, accurate pictures.”
Marines like Ortega are essential to keep the squadron at the peak of readiness during the transition, Myette said.
“Maintenance Marines have done an outstanding job of accepting the new aircraft,” Myette said. “They have really done the majority of the heavy lifting on this project, and we definitely appreciate them.”
Although there will be a learning curve working with the new system due to its modernity, Ortega said he is excited to work with the upgraded helicopters.
“Times are changing and things are evolving,” Ortega said. “It’s time for the AH-1W’s to go to bed. And, the AH-1Z’s are the perfect candidate to replace them.”
We’ve all seen the cool James Bond clip where Q hands over a Walther PPK/S that can only be activated by 007’s palm print .
If a bad guy tries to pick it up and shoot the superspy, no joy.
For years the idea of a so-called “smart” gun like Bond’s has been largely out of reach for anyone but the covert operators of fiction, but that hasn’t stopped the government from trying to make one for real life. And the feds just took the first step in what could eventually be a handgun fielded to law enforcement and the military that only shoots for an authorized user.
As part of a series of executive actions on gun control released in January, President Barack Obama ordered the Department of Justice to look into what a smart gun should look like for military troops and federal agents. His intention was to deploy government resources to push the technology beyond what the civilian market has yielded in hopes of making smart gun technology available for most handguns.
“As the single largest purchaser of firearms in the country, the Federal Government has a unique opportunity to advance this research and ensure that smart gun technology becomes a reality,” the White House said. “In connection with these efforts, the departments will consult with other agencies that acquire firearms and take appropriate steps to consider whether including such technology in specifications for acquisition of firearms would be consistent with operational needs.”
The Armatix iP1 is the first so-called “smart gun” available for consumers. It’s chambered in 22 LR and requires a special watch for the shooter to active the gun.
In July, researchers with the National Institute of Justice released its long-awaited specifications for what a smart handgun should be able to do and how its safety features should work. The requirements represent a high technological bar for military and law enforcement smart gun use, including overrides if the system is jammed, near instant activation and a 10,000 rounds before failure limit.
The Justice Department described “the potential benefits of advanced gun safety technology, but noted that additional work was required before this technology is ready for widespread adoption by law enforcement agencies,” the NIJ report said. “In particular, the report stressed the importance of integrating this technology into a firearm’s design without compromising the reliability durability, and accuracy that officers expect from their service weapons.”
The NIJ specs essentially call for a polymer-framed, striker fired 9mm or .40 SW handgun without any external safety. Basically, the specs point to a Glock 19 or similar modern handgun when it comes to ergonomics, size, and function.
Researchers said the smart gun should able to be programmed to work only for authorized users, could be activated with a wearable device such as a ring or bracelet, and should be able to shoot even if the smart safety fails.
But the researchers went on to call for functions that go well beyond what current technology allows, including that “the security device shall not increase the time required by the operator to grasp, draw from a holster and fire the pistol as a pistol of the same design that is not equipped with the security device.”
That means zero lag time for the pistol to draw, authorize and fire in a split second.
The smart gun will also have to detect and alert the shooter if there is an attempt to jam the system and be able override the safety and fire despite the countermeasures. And the gun must be able to fire with both a bare or gloved hand, making it tough for technology using biometric sensors to read fingerprints.
Most importantly, the smart gun will have to endure 10,000 rounds with 2,000 draws between any failure. Engineers who build systems like small lights and lasers that attach to handguns have said one of the biggest technological challenges to building miniature electronics is making them tough enough to withstand the repeated recoil of a pistol.
Skeptics have long argued smart guns insert an unreliable technology into a system that’s build to work every time at a moment’s notice and that forcing anyone to use an electronic safety on a handgun could mean the difference between life and death.
“Generally speaking, additional complexity brings increased risk of malfunction and error,” the Justice Department has said. “The types of firearms most commonly used by law enforcement and the broader American public … are relatively straightforward mechanical devices, and manufacturers have faced significant engineering challenges as they seek to seamlessly integrate electronics into firearms’ operations.
But the White House has signaled its intention to push the technology to the field as soon as possible, and the latest NIJ report shows just how solid that technology has to be for troops and law enforcement to trust it with their lives.
According to legend, Colorado’s Cheyenne Mountain is a sleeping dragon that many years ago saved the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe. In the Native American story, the Great Spirit punished the people by sending a massive flood, but after they repented, it sent a dragon to drink the water away. The dragon, engorged by the massive amount of water, fell asleep, was petrified and then became the mountain.
Unlike the dragon of legend, the Cheyenne Mountain Complex has never slept during 50 years of operations. Since being declared fully operational in April 1966, the installation has played a vital role in the Department of Defense during both peacetime and wartime.
Though the complex may have changed names during the past five decades, its mission has never strayed from defending the U.S. and its allies. Today, it is known as Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, with a primary role of collecting information from satellites and ground-based sensors throughout the world and disseminating the data to North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command and U.S. Strategic Command — a process Steven Rose, Cheyenne Mountain AFS deputy director, compares to the work done by the stem of the human brain.
“Those sensors are your nerves out there sensing that information,” Rose said, “but the nerves all come back to one spot in the human body, together in the brain stem, entangled in a coherent piece. We are the brain stem that’s pulling it all together, correlating it, making sense of it, and passing it up to the brain — whether it’s the commander at NORAD, NORTHCOM or STRATCOM — for someone to make a decision on what that means. That is the most critical part of the nervous system and the most vulnerable. Cheyenne Mountain provides that shield around that single place where all of that correlation and data comes into.”
In the 1950s, the DOD decided to build the installation as a command and control center defense against long-range Soviet bombers. As the “brain stem,” it would be one of the first installations on the enemy’s target list, so it was built to withstand a direct nuclear attack.
Cheyenne Mountain’s 15 buildings rest on more than 1,300 springs, 18 inches from the mountain’s rock walls, so they could move independently in the event of a nuclear blast and the inherent seismic event. In addition, an EMP, being a natural component of a nuclear blast, was already considered in Cheyenne Mountain’s original design and construction features, Rose said.
“Back then, it was just part of the effect of a nuclear blast that we were designed for at Cheyenne Mountain,” he added. “If you fast forward 50 years from our construction, the EMP threat has become more important to today’s society because of the investment that has been made into electronics. Just by sheer coincidence, since we were designed in the 50s and 60s for a nuclear blast and its EMP component, we are sitting here today as the number one rated EMP protected facility. The uniqueness of the mountain is that the entire installation is surrounded by granite, which is a natural EMP shield.”
The station, built 7,000 feet above sea level, opened as the NORAD Combat Operations Center. When NORAD and the newly stood up NORTHCOM moved their main command center to Peterson Air Force Base in 2008, many believed Cheyenne Mountain had closed. Today, Cheyenne Mountain hosts an alternate command center for NORAD and is landlord to more than a dozen DOD agencies, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency.
“When I bring official visitors up here, not only are they surprised that we’re still open,” said Colonel Gary Cornn, Cheyenne Mountain AFS Installation Commander. “Many are impressed by the original construction, the blasting of the tunnels, how the buildings are constructed inside, and some of the things we show them, such as the survivability and capability we have in the blast valves, the springs, the way we do our air in the Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) filtering and the huge blast doors. It’s funny to see senior officers and civilians become sort of amazed like little kids again.”
The threats and sources have drastically changed from when the station opened at the height of the Cold War, but the station’s iconic 25-ton steel doors remain the same, ready to seal the mountain in 40 seconds to protect it from any threat. The underground city beneath 2,000 feet of granite still provides the protection to keep the station relevant as it begins its next half-century as “America’s Fortress.”
Longtime Cheyenne Mountain employees like Rose and Russell Mullins, the 721st Communications Squadron deputy director, call themselves “mountain men.” Mullins’ time in the mountain goes back to the Cold War era, about halfway through its history to 1984.
Although the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal was the main focus, today’s Airmen conduct essentially the same mission: detect and track incoming threats to the United States; however, the points of origin for those threats have multiplied and are not as clearly defined.
“The tension in here wasn’t high from what might happen,” Mullins said. “The tension was high to be sure you could always detect (a missile launch). We didn’t dwell on the fact that the Soviet Union was the big enemy. We dwelled on the fact that we could detect anything they could throw at us.
“There was a little bit of stress back then, but that hasn’t changed. I would say the stress now is just as great as during the Cold War, but the stress today is the great unknown.”
The 9/11 attacks added another mission to NORAD and the Cheyenne Mountain Directorate – the monitoring of the U.S. and Canadian interior air space. They stand ready to assist the Federal Aviation Administration and Navigation Canada to respond to threats from the air within the continental U.S. and Canada.
Airplane icons blot out most of the national map on the NORAD/NORTHCOM Battle Cab Traffic Situation Display in the alternate command center. To the right another screen shows the Washington, D.C., area, called the Special Flight Restrictions Area, which was also added after 9/11.
Whenever a crisis would affect NORAD’s vulnerability or ability to operate, the commander would move his command center and advisors to the Battle Cab, said Lt. Col. Tim Schwamb, the Cheyenne Mountain AFS branch chief for NORAD/NORTHCOM.
“I would say that on any given day, the operations center would be a center of controlled chaos; where many different things may be happening at once,” Schwamb said. “We’re all trying to ensure that we’re taking care of whatever threat may be presenting itself in as short an amount of time as possible.
“I would describe it as the nerve center of our homeland defense operations. This is where the best minds in NORAD and U.S. Northern Command are, so that we can see, predict, and counter any threats that would happen to the homeland and North American region. It’s really a room full of systems that we monitor throughout the day, 24-hours a day, seven-days a week, that give us the information to help us accomplish the mission.”
Protecting America’s Fortress is a responsibility that falls to a group of firefighters and security forces members, but fighting fires and guarding such a valuable asset in a mountain presents challenges quite different from any other Air Force base, said Matthew Backeberg, a 721st Civil Engineer Squadron supervisor firefighter. Firefighters train on high-angle rescues because of the mountain’s unique environment, but even the most common fire can be especially challenging.
“Cheyenne Mountain is unique in that we have super challenges as far as ventilation, smoke and occupancy,” Backeberg said. “In a normal building, you pull the fire alarm, and the people are able to leave. Inside the mountain, if you pull the fire alarm, the people are depending on me to tell them a safer route to get out.
“If a fire happens inside (the mountain), we pretty much have to take care of it,” Backeberg added. “We’re dependent on our counterparts in the CE world to help us ventilate the facility, keep the fire going in the direction we want it to go, and allow the occupants of the building to get to a safe location – outside the half mile long tunnel.”
Although Cheyenne Mountain, the site of movies and television series such as “WarGames,” “Interstellar,” “Stargate SG-1” and “Terminator,” attracts occasional trespassers and protesters, security forces members more often chase away photographers, said Senior Airman Ricardo Pierre Collie, a 721st Security Forces Squadron member.
“The biggest part of security forces’ day is spent responding to alarms and getting accustomed to not seeing the sun on a 12-hour shift when working inside the mountain,” Collie said.
Security forces must also be ready to respond at a moment’s notice because, when charged with protecting an installation like Cheyenne Mountain AFS, the reaction time is even more crucial. Airmen like Collie feel their responsibly to protect America’s Fortress remains as vital today as it was during the Cold War.
“The important day at Cheyenne Mountain wasn’t the day we opened in 1966,” Rose said. “The next important date isn’t in April 2016 (the installation’s 50-year anniversary), it’s about all those days in between. The Airmen who come here to Cheyenne Mountain every day will be watching your skies and shores in (the nation’s) defense.”
As Cheyenne Mountain AFS enters its next 50 years, the dragon remains awake and alert to all threats against the U.S.
Retired Marine Gen. James Mattis wants Post 9/11 veterans to know their wartime service strengthens their character through what he has coined “post-traumatic growth.”
Writing in The Wall Street Journal, the former Centcom commander adapted a speech he gave recently in San Francisco that is a must-read for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. In it, he writes of how veterans should reject a “victimhood” mentality and ask for nothing more than a level playing field after they return home.
For whatever trauma came with service in tough circumstances, we should take what we learned—take our post-traumatic growth—and, like past generations coming home, bring our sharpened strengths to bear, bring our attitude of gratitude to bear. And, most important, we should deny cynicism a role in our view of the world.
We know that in tough times cynicism is just another way to give up, and in the military we consider cynicism or giving up simply as forms of cowardice. No matter how bad any situation, cynicism has no positive impact. Watching the news, you might notice that cynicism and victimhood often seem to go hand-in-hand, but not for veterans. People who have faced no harsh trials seem to fall into that mode, unaware of what it indicates when taking refuge from responsibility for their actions. This is an area where your example can help our society rediscover its courage and its optimism.
Well-known and especially beloved by Marines, the 64-year-old general retired from the service in 2013 after 41 years in uniform. Since then, he has been teaching at Dartmouth and Stanford University, offered testimony to Congress, and started work on a book on leadership and strategy.
“I am reminded of Gen. William Sherman’s words when bidding farewell to his army in 1865: ‘As in war you have been good soldiers, so in peace you will make good citizens,'” Mattis wrote.
PARIS — U.S. allies are happy to have the A-10 Warthog attack aircraft back in Europe to counter a resurgent Russia, airmen here at the Paris Air Show said.
The Defense Department brought the Cold War-era tank busters stateside in 2013 as part of a consolidation of bases and equipment in Europe. But it sent them back to the continent as part of a theater security package earlier this year — including countries in the former Soviet bloc — in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine and support for pro-Russian separatists.
The planes have been a welcome sight during training exercises involving NATO forces in the Czech Republic, Poland, Estonia and Romania, among other countries, according to crew members.
“It’s pretty amazing because that’s what this jet was designed for — Russian tanks — so it’s pretty wild that we’re helping them out for the original cause,” Air Force Staff Sgt. Marcus Nugent, a crew member who works on the aircraft’s avionics systems, said on Tuesday at the Paris Air Show, held at the historic Le Bourget airfield outside the city.
“They’re small countries, they’re small forces, so seeing us out there with them,” he added. “They love it just as much as we love it — maybe a little more — so it’s pretty awesome. The way Russia’s been acting — it keeps people at ease on both sides.”
Tech. Sgt. Teddy McCollough, an A-10 weapons maintainer with the 355th Air Force Maintenance Squadron, agreed. “They absolutely love our presence there,” he said. “You can feel how gracious they are for us being there.”
About 300 airmen and 12 A-10s with the 355th Fighter Wing in February departedDavis-Monthan Air Force Base in Arizona for Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany as part of a security theater package. The Air Force also deployed 12 F-15Es in March in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve.
The units have traveled across Europe taking part in a wide range of exercises and working with NATO partners. U.S Air Forces in Europe Commander Gen. Frank Gorenc said Monday at the Paris Air Show that the additional airmen and aircraft have helped reassure our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.
A-10 pilots Capts. Joseph Morrin and Paul Wruck with the 354th Fighter Squadron said they have benefited from the time training with joint terminal air controllers from across NATO on calling in airstrikes.
“We get to do close air support training with our allies and get to see how they do business and show them how we do business, and all of us together as an overall CAS team get better,” Morrin said.
“I would say the biggest threat on my mind is what’s happening with Russia and the activities of Russia, and indeed that’s a big part of why I’m here in Europe and having those discussions,” she said. “It’s extremely worrisome on what’s going on in the Ukraine. We’ve seen the type of warfare, which someone dubbed it hybrid warfare, which is somewhat new. So I would put that at the top of my list.”
The A-10 is known as the pre-eminent close air support aircraft in the U.S. fleet with its low, slow-flying gunship’s snub-nose packed with a seven-barrel GAU-8/A Avenger Gatling gun that fires 30mm rounds designed to shred the armor on tanks, combat vehicles and other targets.
“I love this aircraft,” he said. “I love the gun system. It’s reliable. It has few hiccups. When it does, it’s usually minor. It holds a lot of rounds, 1,150 rounds — that’s a lot. It’s a beast.” He added, “When they go and fly day-to-day missions, they usually do shoot, do some target practice. I just make sure it’s clean, lubed up and ready to go.”
The Air Force has proposed retiring its fleet of almost 300 Warthogs by 2019 to save an estimated $4.2 billion a year and free up maintainers for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy multi-role fighter jet and the Pentagon’s most expensive acquisition program.
Congress rejected the service’s request to begin the process of divesting the A-10 this year and approved $337 million in funding to keep them in the inventory. While lawmakers did allow the Air Force to move up to three dozen of the planes to back-up status, they blocked the service from sending any to the bone yard in Arizona.
Morrin said his unit tries not to get caught up in the debate and the politics surrounding the issue.
“We let them do the debating and we keep flying,” he said.
Morrin explained that the A-10 pilot community is still not sure what the potential retirement of the A-10 would mean for their careers. A-10 pilots have not been told what aircraft they would fly next, but there is hope that many would fly the F-35, Morrin said.
“We might have to go back to flight training for a while. We just really don’t know,” Morrin said. “They haven’t told us because it’s not official yet. It’s sort of the expectation though that since the F-35 is the future that we’d go there and then take our CAS knowledge to the table and make sure that community is well versed in it.”
As the Air Force pushes to retire its fleet of A-10 attack aircraft, Boeing Co. doesn’t want the planes to waste away in the Arizona bone yard — it wants to sell them abroad.
The company has begun discussions with the service about potentially selling the Cold War-era gunship to U.S. allies, according to Chris Raymond, a vice president at the company.
“We need to see what they want to do first, and then we’d certainly want to try to help market some of those around the world, if they choose to want to do that,” he said.
The beleaguered Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro refused to call new elections in response to demands from several European countries.
He also warned that the US presidency would be “stained with blood” if President Donald Trump goes ahead with plans to intervene.
European Union countries including Austria, Britain, France, Germany, and Spain told Maduro to call fresh elections by Feb. 3, 2019, or else they would formally recognize Maduro’s opponent, Juan Guaidó, as Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaidó, the National Assembly president, declared himself the country’s interim president in January 2019. Critics of Maduro have accused him of vote-rigging in last May’s presidential election and say his presidency, which started Jan. 10, 2019, is unconstitutional and fraudulent.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Tens of thousands of people have been protesting Maduro over the past month. Maduro has presided over one of the worst economic crises, leading to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing Venezuela.
“It’s as if I told the European Union that I give it a few days to recognize the Republic of Catalonia,” he added, referring to the Spanish region of Catalonia’s failed attempt to break away from Spain in October 2017.
Catalonia’s regional president, Carles Puigdemont, declared autonomy from Spain after a contested referendum, and Madrid’s Constitutional Court canceled the independence bid the next month. Spanish authorities have since arrested and detained some of Puigdemont’s allies.
Britain, Denmark, France, Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden formally recognized Guaidó as Venezuela’s interim president on Monday in response to Maduro’s refusal to organize new elections, Sky News reported.
‘Stop, stop, Donald Trump!’
Maduro on Feb. 3, 2019, also warned that Trump’s presidency would be “stained with blood” if Trump decided to intervene in Venezuela.
“Stop, stop, Donald Trump!” Maduro said. “You are making mistakes that are going to stain your hands with blood, and you are going to leave the presidency stained with blood. Stop!”
He added: “Or is it that you are going to repeat a Vietnam in Latin America?”
Maduro also warned Guaidó to “stop this coup-mongering strategy and stop simulating a presidency in which nobody elected him.”
Guaidó argued in The New York Times last week that his interim presidency was not a “self-proclamation” because the Venezuelan Constitution says that “if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state” he becomes interim president.
He said that since Maduro’s reelection was not legitimate, that condition has been fulfilled.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The U.S. military is still holding the Mother of All Bombs over the Taliban’s heads like 21,600-pound GPS-guided sword of Damocles.
In April 2017, a U.S. aircraft dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb on a cave complex being used by the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan, marking the first time the weapon had been used in combat.
Although U.S. forces in Afghanistan have not used the MOAB again since then, “It’s there if we need it,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. James Hecker, commander of coalition air forces in Afghanistan.
“We never take anything off the table,” Hecker told reporters at the Pentagon. “Right now, we don’t have a use for it, but if we do, it’s there for us.”
The bomb was rapidly designed and built between November 2002 and March 2003, ahead of the initial invasion of Iraq. It was designed to be a replacement for the massive BLU-82 “Daisy Cutter,” according to the Air Force. When it was first tested on March 11, 2003, the explosion created a mushroom cloud that could be seen from 20 miles away.
By the time the MOAB arrived in theater, coalition forces were close to Baghdad. It would be 14 years before the weapon would make its debut when it was dropped in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province following the death of a Special Forces soldier fighting ISIS-Khorasan.
News that the bomb had finally been used created a media sensation that made Hecker’s mother concerned about him.
“Quite honestly, after only being here a week and my mom heard that a MOAB was dropped, she immediately sent me a note and asked if I was OK,” Hecker said. “I let her know that we won’t drop on ourselves. This is meant for the enemy.”
With ISIS fighters going underground in Iraq and Syria, U.S. Central Command has made Afghanistan the priority for air operations.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan now have 50 percent more MQ-9 Reaper drones to find targets, as well as an A-10 squadron to provide close air support, Hecker said. A combat search and rescue squadron is also being deployed to the country.
On Feb. 4, a B-52 dropped a total of 24 precision-guided bombs — a new record — during three airstrikes against Taliban and East Turkestan Islamic Movement training camps in northeast Afghanistan, Hecker said. Previously, B-52s only had room for 16 precision-guided bombs, but in late November, the bomber was modified for an increased payload at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar.
Meanwhile, the Afghan air force is dropping or launching weapons at the enemy at nearly double the rate of U.S. aircraft, Hecker said. However, he clarified, most of those strikes come from the Afghan fleet of 25 MD-530 helicopters, which are equipped with laser-guided rockets and machine guns.
Hecker conceded that strikes from a light attack helicopter and a B-52 don’t exactly make for an apples-to-apples comparison. “But I wouldn’t say it’s apples to oranges either,” he said.
Earlier this week, the United States was reminded that veterans of World War II and the Korean War are passing away at a remarkable rate when Frank Levingston died at 110 years old. He was the oldest living WWII veteran but the median age of this era of vets is 90, and 430 of them die each day. The National WWII Museum estimated that there are only roughly 690,000 left of the 16 million who served.
It can’t be easy to be the last of a dying generation, but someone has to be. World War II and Korea veterans have a little bit of time left, but not much. The last surviving World War I veteran died in 2011. Here’s a look at who the last surviving veterans were for each American war and when they were laid to rest.
Lemuel Cook, Revolutionary War
Cook was born in 1759, the only one on this list to be born a British subject. He was from Connecticut and enlisted in the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at age 16, seeing action at the Battle of Brandywine and Siege of Yorktown. He was also present at General Cornwallis’ surrender during the Virginia Campaign. After being discharged in 1784, Cook would watch the beginning and end of the Civil War as a civilian. He died in 1866.
Hiram Cronk, War of 1812
The last surviving veteran of “Mr. Madison’s War,” Cronk was born in 1800 in Upstate New York. He and other New York Volunteers fought in the defense of Sackett’s Harbor, west of Watertown, which held a major shipyard during the War of 1812. He lived to be 105 years old, drawing a monthly pension of $97 from New York and the Federal government for his service ($1,443 in today’s dollars).
Owen Thomas Edgar, Mexican-American War
The Philadelphia native was a U.S. Navy sailor on the frigates Potomac,Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and Experience. Born in 1831, he lived to be 98 years old, dying in 1929. After three years of service, he was only promoted once during his enlistment.
Albert Henry Woolson, Civil War – Union Army
Woolson was born in Antwerp, New York in 1850. His father was wounded in the Union Army at the Battle of Shiloh. Woolson himself was enlisted as a drummer in the 1st Minnesota Heavy Artillery Regiment. His unit never saw action and Woolson spent the rest of his life as Vice Commander in Chief of the political action group, Grand Army of the Republic, fighting for the rights and views of Civil War veterans. He died in Duluth, Minnesota in 1956.
The last combat veteran of the Union Army was James Hard of the 37th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment. He fought at the battles of First Bull Run, Antietam, and Chancellorsville, and met Abraham Lincoln at a White House reception.
Pleasant Crump, Civil War – Confederate Army
Born in Alabama in 1847, Crump and a buddy enlisted as privates in the 10th Alabama Infantry Regiment in November 1864. He fought at the Battle of Hatcher’s Run and the siege of Petersburg before watching General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House. After the surrender, Crump walked home to Alabama. He died in 1951 at age 104, the last confirmed survivor of the Confederate Army.
Frederick Fraske, Indian Wars
Fraske was an immigrant from the Kingdom of Prussia, now part of Germany. He came to the U.S. in 1877 with his family, settling in Chicago. At 21, he enlisted in the Army and was sent to the 17th Infantry in Wyoming. Although he spent his career preparing Fort D.A. Russell for an attack from the native tribes, the attack never came and he spent his three years of enlisted service and went home to Chicago. He died at age 101 in 1973.
John Daw was born Hasteen-tsoh in 1870. He would grow up to become an enlisted U.S. Army tracker, looking for Apaches in New Mexico until 1894. He would return to the Navajo Nation in Arizona after leaving the service, dying in 1965 as the last surviving Navajo Tracker.
Jones Morgan, Spanish-American War
Morgan was a Buffalo Soldier who lived to be 113 years old. He enlisted in 1896 in the 9th Cavalry Regiment. He later maintained the horses of the Rough Riders and served as a camp cook on the war’s Cuban front. Despite the controversy surrounding his claim (his enlistment papers burned in a fire in 1912), no one doubted Morgan, but he wasn’t given recognition until 1992, the year before he died.
Nathan Cook, Boxer Rebellion Philippine-American War
Cook is probably the saltiest American sailor who ever lived. Enlisting in 1901 (age 15) after quitting his job at a Kansas City meat packing plant, he served in the Philippines, during the uprising after the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War ceded the Philippines to the U.S. Cook also saw action during the Boxer Rebellion in China and the fighting along the U.S.-Mexico border precipitated by Pancho Villa. He was promoted to warrant officer after 12 years of service. He continued to serve during World War I, commanding a sub chaser and sinking two U-boats. He was the XO of a transport ship during World War II and retired in 1942, after some 40 years of service. He died in 1992 at age 104.
Frank Buckles, World War I
Yes, all the doughboys are gone now. The last was Frank Buckles of West Virginia who died in 2011. he enlisted in the Army at age 16 in 1917 to be and ambulance driver. he was turned down by the Marines because he was too small and by the Navy because he had flat feet. After the Armistice in 1918, he escorted German POWs back to Germany. He was discharged in 1919. He would work in shipping as a civilian and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942 and spent the rest of the war in civilian prison camps.
Buckles spent his last days appealing to the American public to create a World War I memorial in Washington, DC. Buckles died at age 110, but his dream did not. The National World War I Memorial is set to be built where Pershing Park is today.
Lately, it seems everyone has an opinion on the role of women in combat. Recently two female officers passed Army Ranger training and the Marines completed a study on gender integration, and some government officials are upset about all of it. But the notion of women in combat is not new. They’ve been in the thick of it for centuries, and not just as camp followers and nurses.
With a few exceptions, women in leadership and direct combat roles were (forcefully) restricted by men (unless God tells a sixteen-year-old French girl how to beat the English. But, of course, that doesn’t count because God is a dude, right?).
God’s mansplaining of how to win the Hundred Years’ War aside, in the days when armies would forage food and supplies, officially licensed small business people known as “sutlers” or “vivandiers” would follow the armies to sell tobacco, food, and drinks.
The Napoleonic Wars and the wars of Napoleon III brought the rise of the vivandière, often the daughters and wives of those enterprising businesses. They came to battle with a tonnelet (a small barrel) of brandy to give soldiers as they fought in a battle.
They would deliver much-needed shots to the wounded and would even carry them back to aid stations in the rear during the entire course of a battle. The vivandière marched with the troops everywhere they went and endured the same weather and combat conditions as the armies they followed. Some even carried a musket and fought in the battle. Unsurprisingly, the troops loved them for their bravery and generosity. The loss of a vivandière in battle was a loss to the entire army.
Paintings were made about them, and operas were composed, like Donizetti’s La Fille du Régiment and Verdi’s La Forza del Destino. (Don’t say We Are the Mighty doesn’t expose its readership to high art. We at Team Mighty love this sh*t.)
The vivandière caught on overseas. During the American Civil War, they served with both Confederate and Union armies during battles, where their tradition of bravery continued. The U.S. Army calls them “the Forgotten Women of the Civil War” who “deserve to be remembered.” Women continued this role well into WWI, but were no longer allowed to go into combat.
The troops love for their vivandières goes beyond the normal desire a man has for women. Though some troops did marry their vivandière, the bond between these women and their regiments was more akin to the bonds people form after serving in combat with one another. Songs were written about the women who could handle themselves around love-struck men, like this song about a woman named Madelon (translated from French):
The ‘caliph’ of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi recently lost his son in combat in Syria — but no one really cares about that. The Syrians and Russians were probably hoping to ice his reclusive father, who is probably the world’s most wanted man at the moment.
Unfortunately, the only problem is that the world has “killed” that guy before — several times over. Baghdadi has survived more unbelievable attacks than anyone in any Fast and Furious movie ever.
The reward for killing or capturing Baghdadi currently sits at a cool $25 million, but even offering that kind of reward hasn’t led to conclusive intelligence on where and when to hit the reclusive leader.
Baghdadi gets lucky once more.
March 18, 2015
Baghdadi was struck by coalition aircraft while straddling the border between Iraq and Syria. This led to ISIS’ need to have a serious talk about who replaces Baghdadi if he dies. His physics teacher stood in as caliph of ISIS while he recovered from his “serious wounds.”
In real life, the coalition confirmed the strike happened but had zero reason to believe Baghdadi was hit. Later, ISIS leaks news of a spinal injury on the caliph that left him paralyzed. While the extent of his injuries weren’t really known (like… is he actually paralyzed? And why would ISIS tell anyone?), militants vowed revenge for the attempt on his life.
And he really wasn’t even in the convoy.
October 11, 2015
The Iraqi Air Force claims they hit a convoy carrying Baghdadi in Anbar Province on its way to an ISIS meeting, which was also bombed. After the IAF declared his death, rumors that Baghdadi wasn’t even in the convoy began to swirl.
Someone in ISIS probably died in that airstrike, it just wasn’t him.
June 9, 2016
Iraqi television declared that Baghdadi was wounded by U.S. aircraft in Northern Iraq. No one confirmed this, which, if you think about it, could just happen every day. He’s survived before only to be bombed and then “bombed” again later — just like he did this time around.
Maybe it was a slow news day for Iraqi TV.
Another miraculous escape from U.S. aircraft.
June 14, 2016
Islamic news agencies reported the leader’s death at the hands of coalition aircraft, but the United States asserts it cannot support that claim (but it would welcome such news). The strike supposedly hit the leader’s hideout in Raqqa in an attempt to decapitate the Islamic State.
Tackling the ISIS problem head on.
October 3, 2016
The ISIS caliph was supposedly poisoned by a “mystery assassin” in Iraq and the terrorist group immediately began a purge of his inner circle, looking for the mysterious poisoner. Baghdadi and three others are said to have suffered from the poisoning, but little is known about the aftermath.
Literally never happened.
May 28, 2017
This time, Russia gets credit for icing the caliph. The Russian Defense Ministry investigated if Su-34 and Su-35 aircraft near Raqqa actually managed to kill Baghdadi. The mission of the sorties was to behead the terror group by taking out a number of important leaders, including Baghdadi if possible. The Syrian Observatory for human rights, however, reported that no such airstrike even happened that day.
June 10, 2017
Just four days after allied forces begin an assault on Raqqa, Syrian state television says Baghdadi was killed by a massive U.S. artillery barrage aimed at the ISIS capital while visiting ISIS headquarters in the Syrian city.
He survived so many airstrikes I’m running out of Fast and Furious references.
July 11, 2017
Chinese state newspaper Xinhua reported that ISIS confirmed the death of Baghdadi in the Iraqi city of Tal Afar and that a new caliph would be announced soon. This announcement came in the days following the recapture of Mosul by Iraqi forces. Kurdish leaders disagree with the assessment.
The manhunt is on.
As 2018 came around, coalition spies were able to track the elusive leader to specific places on three separate occasions. Each time, he was able to slip away. His current status, whether he’s still in hiding or even alive at all, is unknown by most.